Top-ranked De La Salle of Concord wins its sixth CIF state bowl game with a 63-42 victory over No. 2 Corona Centennial that sets a CIF bowl game record for combined points. Centennial turns the ball over on three straight possessions in the second half and high-octane offense can’t overcome miscues.
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The CIF Open Division bowl game between the two top-ranked teams in the state, No. 1 De La Salle and No. 2 Centennial of Corona, figured to have plenty of fireworks. The Spartans from NorCal came in with the most vaunted offense in their storied history and the Huskies from SoCal are annually one of the state’s most explosive teams.
The fireworks came often and early and with the nature of a high-scoring game, whichever team made the first crucial mistake figured to go down in defeat. That’s exactly what happened, as Centennial’s offense turned the ball over on three consecutive possessions in the second half while trailing 49-42 that De La Salle transformed into its third victory in four tries over the Huskies in a CIF state bowl game.With its 63-42 victory, De La Salle second year coach Justin Alumbaugh won his first CIF state bowl game in his second appearance. De La Salle also is now 6-3 all-time in CIF state bowl games, with the first five coming under all-time state wins leader Bob Ladouceur, the last one in his final game coaching in 2012.
The two teams combined for 105 points to shatter the CIF state bowl game scoring record in the nine-year history of the event. De La Salle not only secured its third win over Centennial in bowl games and its sixth CIF state title, the win means the Spartans will be named Cal-Hi Sports State Team of the Year for 2014 on Monday.
Before losing to St. John Bosco in last year’s CIF Open Division bowl game, the Spartans were named State Team of the Year four straight times between 2009-12. De La Salle will be named California’s best team for the sixth time in the last eight years and 17 times overall, the the first by the 1992 team that got the legendary 151-game winning streak started.
“No, I’m just happy to come out here with a win,” Alumbaugh said about winning his first CIF state title in the shadow of his now retired mentor. “In the grand scheme of things, I teach English and I’m a football coach. I don’t care that much about that other stuff. I’m just very proud of these kids that they won.”
It wasn’t the prettiest of games, and De La Salle gave up the most points ever against any foe (the previous mark being 39) since Ladouceur took over as head coach in 1979. But the Spartans got it done, as the unsung hero of the game was 6-foot-2, 226 pound two-way player Cameron Lissarrague. The senior came up with an interception with De La Salle leading 49-42 with 3:40 remaining in the third quarter.
A Centennial pass intended for explosive junior wide receiver Javon McKinley was tipped straight into the air and fell into Lissarrague’s bread basket as McKinley didn’t realize where the ball was at. De La Salle took over on its own 32-yard line and capitalized on the turnover with a two-yard touchdown run by running back Andrew Hernandez to make the score 55-42.
With 23 seconds remaining in the third period, Lissarrague came up with his second interception of the game at the Spartans’ 47-yard line.
On its ensuing drive following the second interception, De La Salle didn’t convert, as it tried a 46-yard fake field goal run with eight minutes remaining that didn’t fool anyone, but it hardly mattered. That’s because on Centennial’s next possession, senior defensive back Jonathan Lopez came up with a fumble recovery near midfield when Centennial quarterback Nate Ketteringham coughed it up.
The three consecutive turnovers were just too much for even an explosive offense such as Centennial’s to overcome. De La Salle added an insurance touchdown with 1:31 remaining in the game when junior all-purpose player Devin Asiasi scored on a 12-yard run.
“We kind of went back to basics in the second half,” said longtime defensive coordinator Terry Eidson. “Cam was all over those routes in practice, so I was not surprised by that one. On that first one, it was just a great effort by Jabari (Anderson). On the second one, Cam has been doing that all week in practice.”
The De La Salle coaching staff thought the Spartans would have to play their best game of the year to knock off Centennial (12-3), and they were absolutely correct. In the first half, De La Salle (14-0) simply couldn’t stop the Huskies’ running game, until late in the second quarter that is.
After both teams went back and forth scoring, the Spartans forced a punt with 5:34 and capitalized, as running back Antoine Custer scored on a five-yard touchdown run to cap a nine-play, 64-yard drive that gave De La Salle a 35-28 lead.
Centennial had 1:55 to try and tie the game, but its drive stalled near De La Salle’s 38-yard line and after a quarterback keeper, the Huskies couldn’t get the snap off for a final play of the half as the clock ran out when the umpire was spotting the ball.
McKinley scored on a 92-yard kickoff return to tie the score at 42-42 with 5:07 remaining in the third quarter. The top-notch junior wideout finished the game with six receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns. In five post-season games, McKinley had 50 receptions for 1, 014 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns. He finished his junior campaign with 97 catches for 2,063 yards.
For De La Salle, Custer finished with 268 yards rushing on 31 carries with four touchdowns. Hernandez added 175 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries.
“Those guys (Custer & Hernandez) have got to go up in the top tier (among DLS backs),” Alumbaugh said.” They ran hard all year and broke tackles. Andrew gutted it out with a hamstring. He didn’t practice until yesterday.”
Both teams combined for 1,129 total yards of offense and De La Salle broke the CIF bowl game record for single-team total offense with 595 yards (Folsom had 567 net yards on Friday night). All those dizzying numbers were nice, but the numbers that mattered are six and one — six CIF state titles for De La Salle and the first for the second year head man.